American Diabetes Alert Day

Woman taking blood sugar reading

Diabetes Awareness Day: Understanding Your Risk

Diabetes affects women’s health more severely than the health of men. It can cause women many serious health consequences, including heart attack or stroke, blindness, problems throughout pregnancy and kidney failure. About 15 million U.S. women have diabetes, or about 1 out of every 9 adult American women.

Women diagnosed with diabetes have:

  • higher risk for heart disease. Heart disease is the most common diabetes complication.
  • lower survival rates and poorer quality of life after experiencing heart attack.
  • higher risk for developing blindness.
  • higher risk for depression. Depression, which affects twice as many women as men within the U.S., also raises diabetes risk in women.
  • higher risk of pregnancy difficulties, including problems conceiving and health concerns while pregnant (including developing gestational diabetes.)
  • and higher risk of repeated urinary and vaginal infections.

March 22 is designated American Diabetes Alert Day. Your Capital Women’s Care team of women’s health experts shares valuable information about prediabetes and diabetes, the different types of diabetes commonly affecting women and their subsequent signs and symptoms plus valuable tips to help you minimize your diabetes risk and optimize your health.

What Is Prediabetes?

Prediabetes often occurs with minimal if any notable symptoms and can lead to developing type 2 diabetes or its complications if not properly treated or controlled. As many as 27 million American women have prediabetes.

When you have prediabetes, your blood sugar (glucose) level is higher than normal but is lower than the blood sugar range of diabetes. Those with prediabetes face greater risks of developing type 2 diabetes and heart disease within their lifetimes.

If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, you can make healthy changes, including adding physical activity, to lower diabetes risk and achieve and maintain normal blood sugar levels. Small changes can have a huge impact on managing diabetes or preventing it. Just by losing 7% of total body weight (or 14 pounds for a 200-pound adult) can lower type 2 diabetes risk by over 50%.

If you are diagnosed with prediabetes, have your blood glucose level checked annually by your doctor. Your doctor will institute an individualized treatment plan to stabilize your blood sugar level.

Through regular annual monitoring of your blood sugar level via simple blood test done by your physician, you can avoid diabetes and its potentially serious side effects; plus, you’ll reduce your risk of developing other major health issues, including heart disease and stroke.

Types of Diabetes

There are 3 common forms of diabetes, including:

  • Type 1 diabetes – those diagnosed don’t produce insulin. Instead, the body breaks down carbohydrates from food and converts it into blood sugar (blood glucose) that it uses for energy. Insulin is a hormone your body needs to get glucose from your bloodstream into your body’s cells. Insulin therapy and other treatments are used to manage this condition and help those diagnosed live long, healthy lives. There are no known causes identified for developing type 1 diabetes. Researchers continue studying family histories to devise hypotheses concerning its cause.
  • Type 2 diabetes - is the most common form of diabetes. With type 2 diabetes, the body doesn’t make enough insulin or isn’t able to use its own insulin correctly. While some can control blood sugar levels with healthy eating and exercise, others may need medication or insulin to manage it.
  • Gestational diabetes – occurs only during pregnancy. Gestational diabetes can cause health problems for the baby and the mother if not controlled. In some instances, pregnancy-specific hormones block the action of the mother’s insulin within her body, causing insulin resistance. This can result in a pregnant woman needing up to three times as much insulin to compensate for this condition. It’s vital to treat it quickly to avoid harm to both mother and baby’s health. Treatment includes working with a doctor to keep blood sugar levels normal via special meal plans and regular physical activity. Treatment may also include daily blood sugar testing and insulin injections.

Diabetes Risk Factors

There are several known risk factors concerning diabetes to be aware of to help you understand and be vigilant concerning your personal health risk of developing diabetes during your lifetime.

You face greater risk of developing type 1 diabetes if you are:

  • younger in age – type 1 diabetes often develops during childhood.
  • have a family health history – you are more prone if type 1 diabetes is diagnosed within your family.
  • suffer certain viral infections or illnesses – risk increases if you’re diagnosed with rotavirus (stomach flu) or mumps.
  • and/or living in a colder climate.

You are at greater risk for developing type 2 diabetes if you have any or a combination of any of the following:

  • have overweightness or obesity.
  • are age 45 years or older.
  • have a family health history of type 2 diabetes.
  • are of either Black, American Indian/Alaska Native, Hispanic, Asian/American, and Native Hawaiian/Pacific Islander descent.
  • gave birth to a baby weighing 9-plus pounds at birth.
  • experience gestational diabetes during pregnancy.
  • are diagnosed with having high blood pressure, whether you’re taking medicine for high blood pressure or having a blood pressure of 140/90 mmHg or higher. Both numbers are important. If one or both numbers are usually high, you have high blood pressure.
  • are diagnosed with having high cholesterol, meaning your HDL cholesterol is 35 mg/dL or lower and/or your triglycerides level is 250 mg/dL or higher.
  • lack physical activity or lead a sedentary lifestyle, meaning you’re active less than 3 times during a week.
  • are a smoker. The more you smoke the higher your risk for type 2 diabetes and other serious health problems if you already have diabetes.
  • and/or have a personal history of either polycystic ovary syndrome (PCOS), heart disease or stroke.

Diabetes Signs and Symptoms

It’s important to understand and know symptoms of diabetes so you can monitor your health and get prompt medical attention should you present symptoms to avoid further complications.

Type 1 diabetes symptoms are usually more severe and may develop suddenly.

Type 2 diabetes may not cause any signs or symptoms initially. Symptoms can develop slowly over time, making it difficult to notice subtle health changes that progress and worsen.

Common signs and symptoms of type 1 and type 2 diabetes include:

  • feeling more tired than usual
  • extreme thirst
  • urinating more often than usual
  • developing blurry vision
  • feeling hungrier than usual
  • unintentional weight loss
  • sores that heal slowly
  • dry, itchy skin
  • tingling in hands, fingers, feet and toes
  • and having more infections (like urinary tract infections and vaginal yeast infections) than usual.

If you notice any of the above signs or symptoms, call your practitioner and schedule an evaluation of your blood glucose level and physical exam to determine if you need to establish and follow a personalized diabetes treatment plan.

Minimizing Diabetes Risk

While researchers don’t know a cure or what causes type 1 diabetes, there are many things within your control to minimize your risk of developing type 2 diabetes.

Many studies, including the large Diabetes Prevention Program study, have proven losing weight can prevent diabetes. Weight loss through healthy eating and more physical activity improves the way your body uses insulin and glucose.

Other factors that minimize diabetes risk include:

  • Prioritizing a healthy weight. Obesity is a leading risk factor for diabetes. Calculate your BMI to see whether you’re at a healthy weight. If you’re overweight or obese, start making small changes to your eating habits and get more physical activity. Even a small amount of weight loss (7%, or about 14 pounds for a 200-pound woman) can delay or even prevent type 2 diabetes.
  • Eating healthy. Choose vegetables, whole grains (such as whole wheat or rye bread, whole grain cereal, or brown rice), beans and fruit. Read food labels to help you choose foods low in saturated fat, trans fat, and sodium. Limit processed and sugary foods plus drinks.
  • Getting active. Aim for 30 minutes of physical activity most days of the week and limit the amount of time you spend sitting daily.

Instituting a healthy lifestyle can decrease your lifetime risk of developing type 2 diabetes. Your Capital Women’s Care team of women’s health professionals are here to answer your questions or concerns about diabetes and discuss your personal diabetes risk or any women’s health issue. Our expert, knowledgeable staff of doctors, nurses and support staff prioritize your health, treatment and care so you enjoy a long, quality life.

Sources:

https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes/type-2/symptoms?&ada_source=WWP211001B...
https://www.diabetes.org/diabetes
https://www.womenshealth.gov/a-z-topics/diabetes#:~:text=Diabetes%20is%2...
https://owh-wh-d9-dev.s3.amazonaws.com/s3fs-public/documents/fact-sheet-...
https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-and-women.html
https://www.niddk.nih.gov/health-information/health-statistics/diabetes-...
https://www.cdc.gov/diabetes/library/features/diabetes-stat-report.html
https://www.thediabetescouncil.com/gender-play-the-relationship-between-....
http://gawh.org/issues/diabetes/key_facts.pdf
https://diabetic.news/6-unique-diabetes-symptoms-women/?utm_source=%2Bdi...
https://www.mayoclinic.org/diseases-conditions/diabetes/symptoms-causes/...

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